Menstrual Hygiene Management
Effective menstrual hygiene management (MHM) includes access to clean absorbents, facilities to change, clean or dispose of these as needed, and access to soap and water. However, many women and girls in Tanzania still do not have these basic essentials, while the taboo of menstruation endures today.
We spoke with over 400 women and girls in Babati, and learned that:
- there is a significant lack of knowledge and understanding about menstruation, as well as the links between menstruation and reproduction
- despite the existence of a curriculum to teach young people about puberty, it is not taught in practice
- schools do not provide good-quality education on puberty or MHM because health teachers do not have the correct training
- myths and cultural taboos surrounding menstruation result in discrimination against menstruating girls and women
- boys and teachers are unsympathetic, occasionally denying girls time to go to the toilet when they need to
- there is a lack of adequate toilet facilities at schools
Action is drastically overdue.
Our MHM programme is working to address these issues through an education and facilities improvement programme in the primary and secondary schools of Babati.
How our programme works
Our MHM programme combines education with physical improvement to sanitation facilities in schools, enabling girls to develop the knowledge they need and ensuring they have access to facilities that allow them to manage their periods safely and hygienically.
We begin by working together with a group of girls in a school to create a girls club where the girls themselves create the rules that define how the group will work.
Through the clubs we provide training on our MHM curriculum, covering puberty, the physical, emotional and social changes it brings, how we can support one another through the process as well as identifying myths and truths surrounding menstruation, health and sanitation. As the group progresses the girls move on to discussing how to manage their menstrual cycle as well as looking at relationships and women's rights in terms of reproductive health.
As well as working directly with girls the project also works with boys to ensure they too understand the changes puberty will bring for themselves and their sisters and friends and we work with teachers so that the whole school is involved in reducing the barriers girls may face.
As part of the programme the girls also look at their current facilities and create a plan for how to improve them to make them more appropriate for their needs, this may include enlarging cubicles, building an incinerator or providing space to wash clothes.
Our MHM Curriculum
Our MHM curriculum has been developed Megan McLaren who worked at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is now studying for a masters in Global Health and draws on well-regarded resources and best practice in the Tanzania Context including the work of WaterAid, The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Institute for Reproductive Health, Peace Corps, USAID and Dr Marni Sommers Growth and Changes. The curriculum has been localised with the support of women from the communities we work with and the local education office to ensure its appropriate
We will begin our pilot in 2018 and look forward to sharing progress form Babati with our supporters next year.